Back in February, I was going through the nominees for the 2019 Triple Crown and came across an unraced son of Tapit out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart. After seeing this stout, stamina-oriented pedigree, I stated – half joking, half serious – that I might be looking at the winner of the $1.5 million Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 8 at Belmont Park.
Now here we are, four months later, and that colt – #8 Intrepid Heart – will actually be a participant in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” the third leg of the Triple Crown. And based on his pedigree, I believe he has a legitimate chance to win.
Consider the following: Tapit has already sired three winners of the Belmont Stakes, namely, Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), and Tapwrit (2017). Furthermore: 1) Touch Gold won the 1997 Belmont Stakes; 2) Flaming Heart previously produced Commissioner, runner-up by a head to the aforementioned Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes; and 3) one of Flaming Heart’s daughters produced Vino Rosso, fourth in last year’s Belmont and recent winner of the mile-and-a-quarter Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes.
Intrepid Heart’s pedigree is so packed with Belmont Stakes-caliber stamina that it’s a bit surprising how well he has performed running shorter distances. Conditioned by the three-time Belmont Stakes-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Intrepid Heart won his debut going a mile at Oaklawn Park by 7 ¾ lengths, leading from start to finish in an impressive performance. Then he employed stalking tactics to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Keeneland, rallying resolutely down the homestretch to prevail with determination.
Unfortunately, nothing went right for Intrepid Heart in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. Traveling 1 1/8 miles around one turn rather than two, Intrepid Heart stumbled at the start and wound up further off the pace than usual. Then he had to check his momentum behind another run in the homestretch, and while he never threatened the top two (including the victorious Global Campaign, who posted a fast time and big speed figures), I thought Intrepid Heart’s third-place finish was solid considering the fast time and the obstacles he faced.
Intrepid Heart will add blinkers for the Belmont Stakes, and I expect the 1 ½-mile distance to bring out the strength in his relentless, grinding style. He’s been training well at Belmont Park and should be forwardly placed in a race that doesn’t contain much speed on paper. When the horses enter the long homestretch and stamina becomes the deciding factor, I’ll trust Intrepid Heart’s pedigree to see him through and lead to an upset victory.
For the exotics wagers, I’ll respect the morning line favorites #10 Tacitus (third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve) and #9 War of Will (winner of the Preakness Stakes). Of the pair, I narrowly prefer War of Will, whose superior early speed should give him a tactical advantage over Tacitus in this presumably slow-paced race.
One of the reasons why the Belmont Stakes pace should be slow is because there’s only one true front-runner in the field – the longshot #1 Joevia. And to be honest, I don’t think it’s impossible for Joevia to upset the Belmont Stakes, or at least finish on the board. A gate-to-wire winner of the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park last month, Joevia has cracked the exacta in four of his five starts. The lone exception came in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct, in which Joevia got caught up in a destructive speed duel and opened up seven lengths on the main body of the field before weakening to cross the wire seventh.
Joevia figures to shake loose on an easy lead in the Belmont, especially while breaking from the rail. Once in a while, big longshots get ignored on the lead until it’s too late for their rivals to reel them in (think Da’ Tara in the 2008 Belmont Stakes), and I wonder if Joevia might be capable of such a surprise. Don’t forget, he ran well against the capable stakes winners Haikal and Alwaysmining during the winter.
Depending on your budget, I have two different wagering strategies for you to consider, but in both cases we’ll be betting Intrepid Heart to win and keying him in exotics bets like the exacta or trifecta.
Wagering Strategy on a $12 Budget
$6 to win on #8 Intrepid Heart
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $6 to win on 8.
$1 exacta: 8 with 9,10 ($2)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $1 exacta: 8 with 9,10
$2 exacta: 9,10 with 8 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $2 exacta: 9,10 with 8
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget
$10 to win on #8 Intrepid Heart
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $10 to win on 8.
$0.50 trifecta: 8 with 9,10 with 1,5,6,7,9,10 ($5)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $0.50 trifecta: 8 with 9,10 with 1,5,6,9,10
$0.50 trifecta: 8 with 1,5,6,7,9,10 with 9,10 ($5)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $0.50 trifecta: 8 with 1,5,6,9,10 with 9,10
$0.50 trifecta: 9,10 with 8 with 1,5,6,7,9,10 ($5)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 11th race, $0.50 trifecta: 9,10 with 8 with 1,5,6,9,10
Good luck, and enjoy the race!